Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Kapow Helps Kofax Address SPA/First Mile

Okay, so here's my first stab at explaining Kofax's acquisition of Kapow Technologies which was announced earlier today. Based in Palo Alto, Kapow is a data integration ISV with some $16 million in annual revenue. Kofax agreed to pay a net of approximately $46 million. (We'll get into more of the financial details in our next premium issue of DIR.)

On a conference call today, Kofax CEO Reynolds Bish explained that Kapow has three primary lines of business:
  • enterprise application integration
  • content migration from one ECM-type system or database driven application to another
  • competitive or marketing intelligence involving monitoring social networks and tracking trends occuring on them
He also noted that over the past four years, Kapow has transitioned from an on-premise software model to a subscription model and that, including maintenance, more than 70% of Kapow's revenue is currently generated through a recurring billing cycle. Kofax plans to continue to sell into all of Kapow's current markets.

But, the really exciting part from a Kofax standpoint is how Kapow's software will help Kofax better pursue its Smart Process Application (SPA)/First Mile of the customer interaction strategy. SPA is a market defined by Forrester sometime between late last year and early this year. Kofax embraced it because of its higher growth potential than document capture.

 Here's some of what Forrester principal analyst Craig LeClair had to say about SPA (excerpted from a previous DIR article.): “SPAs are packaged apps designed to address end-to-end process needs. They can be used to address processes that businesses have been struggling with like invoice and claims processing, and customer onboarding....SPAs combine capture, BPM, social tools, and analytics as enablers to build focused applications."

Kofax is then trying to combine an SPA focus with its aforementioned strategy of addressing the "First Mile" of customer interactions. Here's how Kofax CMO Martyn Christian described this "First Mile:" “The First Mile is really that bridge between systems of engagement and systems of record,” he said. “It involves processes like scanning paper, but it could also involve an app on a cell phone. Our goal is to capture customer information and start to look at building cases and collaboration around it, before the data ultimately ends up in an ERP system or whatever system of record it’s headed towards.”

Basically the First Mile is about most effectively connecting systems of engagement on the front end with the back-end systems of record. But, one of the catches to doing this is that it involves connecting multiple disparate systems - something which Kofax, as primarily a document capture ISV, didn't really have a legacy in.

So, the first step in addressing this shortcoming was acquiring BI and data analytics ISV Altosoft. Altosoft gave Kofax the ability to pull data from disparate system for analyzation and decision-making. The acquisition of Kapow builds on that by enabling Kofax to more easily connect to multiple applications.

During today's conference call, Bish did a fairly good job of explaining the advantages of simplifying application integration when you are competing in the SPA space. "When we talk about SPA, we talk about being able to bridge the gap between systems of engagement and systems of record," he said. "To do that means we have to integrate our technology with both of those types of systems. For example, as part of an SPA you might have to do look-ups into your systems of records to validate information coming from your system of engagement. You also have to export data to a system of record or some other repository.

"Historically, to make those connections, we've had to rely on API programming, which can be time consuming as well as expensive, as it can require extensive professional services. Kapow will enable us to do integrations better, faster, and cheaper, which will accelerate deployment of SPA solutions. Reducing our professional services will also enable us to remove some potential barriers to selling SPA solutions."

The bottom line is that the Kapow acquisition seems to be an important step toward Kofax's goal of transitioning from a document capture specialist to an SPA vendor with a broader market to address. It is another example of how Bish continues to push the company forward through investment in new technology of the profits earned primarily through Kofax's current capture business. Clearly Bish (and the Kofax board) see the capture market as evolving and are not satisfied and stand pat and let it pass them by. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

Imaging 411 Targets VARs, Offering Higher Margins on Service

Following is an excerpt from an article entitled, "Imaging 411 Pumps Life into Hardware Service Market" that appeared in our July 19, 2013 premium edition of DIR.

There are several components to a document imaging sale. We typically talk a lot about the hardware, software, and professional services associated with a deal, because those items typically produce the big upfront price tag. (Unless of course it’s a SaaS or MPS driven deal—but, while gaining momentum, those are still exceptions rather than the norms in our market.) But, there is also typically recurring revenue that can be earned through software maintenance and hardware service contracts.

One difference between these recurring revenue sales and the upfront sales, however, is that while any number of vendors may be competing for the upfront sales, the number of options for maintenance and service is typically limited. Software maintenance, for example, because of the nature of the beast, is usually offered only by the ISV who developed the software. As a result, the ISV typically gets to set the terms with no questions asked.

Hardware service has historically been somewhat more flexible, and at one time many resellers were actually certified to service scanners, which enabled them to control their own pricing. However, while some scanner vendors like Canon still certify VARs, other market leaders like Kodak and Fujitsu have increasingly encouraged resellers to offer only the manufacturer’s authorized service at a price dictated by the manufacturer. The result has been successful service programs for the manufacturers, which has helped them offset some of their falling margins on hardware sales, but it has also put the squeeze on resellers who also have to deal with falling hardware margins and now have to deal with more restrictive service margins as well.

Imaging 411 is attempting to reverse that dynamic and once again make scanner service an important profit center for VARs. The Long Island, NY-based organization is offering scanner service packages to VARs—advertising significantly higher margins than the VARs get reselling similar service packages from leading scanner manufacturers. Imaging 411 recently brought on board long-time scanner industry sales and marketing executive Don McMahan as its VP of sales to help it drive some aggressive channel growth.

McMahan was originally hired by Imaging 411 as a consultant in 2010 when he launched the service provider’s Maintenance VAR Program (MVP). “One of the big components of the MVP program is that we offer deal registration,” said McMahan. “This signifies that we are not competing with our resellers. In addition, we are offering VARs two to three times the margins they get on service contracts from leading scanner vendors.”

Imaging 411 was launched in 2004 as a VAR, with the value-add of being able provide its own service. Its co-founders, Gary Armstrong and Joe Paradiso, are former Lason executives who helped manage service for a large conversion services and imaging systems integration business. Over the years, Imaging 411 began to increase its focus on service on both microfilm and document scanner equipment.

“In each of the past five years, Imaging 411 has enjoyed at least double-digit growth in terms of revenue and new accounts,” said McMahan. “We’ve landed some major national accounts with more than 100 locations—including Databank, which we publicized last year. We also landed a contract to provide in-house scanner service for one of the biggest office integrators in the U.S.”

A lot of the Imaging 411’s early customers are former Kodak Service & Support customers. “We went after Kodak customers and partners first because the dollar values associated with some of their accounts are so high and Kodak’s programs aren’t very flexible,” said McMahan. “One of our differentiators is that we pride ourselves on being easier to do business with."

McMahan said that Imaging 411 currently has about 20 reseller partners. “We are definitely growing our channel,” he said. “That said, I think 30 partners, that really want to do a good job, would be plenty."

Imaging 411 offers coverage throughout the United States through a combination of its own field engineers and contractors. It also provides Level II support to supplement its field personnel. “Our price book is basically the same as the manufacturers’,” said McMahan. “We match all the service SKUs sold by Kodak, Fujitsu, Canon, etc., and we offer more flexible pricing.”

“The bottom line," McMahan added, "is that even if the service market is shrinking, for a smaller company like Imaging 411, the opportunity is too great to pass up. We think the market is plenty big enough to support another major player.”

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Kodak Event to Focus on Leading Edge Information Management

Here's an excerpt from an article that appeared in last week's premium edition of DIR:

From Sept. 22-25, Kodak DI will be hosting its second annual Global Directions Conference at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in Washington D.C. The event features a keynote by Ray Kurzweil, the noted technology inventor, author, and visionary who is currently employed as the director of engineering at Google. Kurzweil, who is probably most widely known for his work on artificial intelligence, but was also an early pioneer in the area of applied OCR, will talk on “The Next Wave of Intelligent Information Management.” According to the Global Directions Web site, the talk “sets the stage and explores the exponential increase in computing power, computing intelligence, and the inexorable impact they will have on transforming information management for the enterprise.”

This is in line with the event’s theme of intelligent information management. “We look at Global Directions as an educational conference,” explained Tim Palmer, VP of worldwide marketing for Kodak DI. “We want to help advance the thinking of the whole industry around understanding information and taking friction and cost out of business processes.”

The other opening day keynotes reflect this broad focus that expands well beyond the traditional areas of business for Kodak DI. In additional to Kurzweil, high level executives from IBM, Google,, and Microsoft will take the dais to discuss topics like big data and analytics, smarter enterprise search, the death of the desktop, and the future of business collaboration. There will also be a panel discussion moderated by Michael Hickins, editor, Wall Street Journal/CIO Journal, that will pull together multiple keynote speakers, including Kurzweil.

“We are taking a very broad view of where Kodak DI intersects with traditional business and new business going forward. We are looking to have our brand and division associated with end users, service providers, manufactures, resellers, etc., as they think about what they need to do to go to market in the future.

“If you consider the concept of information workflow, traditionally capture for us has meant scanning paper documents. But, we realize that information is coming from more and more sources and the growth of digital information as input is increasing exponentially. In the future, we need to help businesses capture information not only from paper, but from multiple other sources.

“‘Collecting’ is probably a better term than ‘capture,’ when you talk about taking this one large stream of information and getting it all to the right places, routing it, understanding it, semantically and contextually, and making sure you have the right associations and the right conclusions are being made.”

We asked Palmer, if Kodak’s Info Insight platform, which brings semantic and contextual understanding to the table, will be prominently featured at Global Directions. “It certainly fits on the far right of the information workflow model,” he said. “But, the event is focused on themes that are much wider than our current product offerings.”

A look at the agenda
After a Sunday evening reception, the full first day of Global Directions, Monday, Sept. 23, will be full of keynotes presented in a general session followed by an exhibitor showcase where dinner will be served. Tuesday and Wednesday will feature four tracks of breakout sessions, with no more than two or three sessions overlapping at a given time. Tuesday evening will feature a “Monuments by Moonlight” bus tour of downtown D.C.

Kodak is hoping for 300-400 attendees, or about double the number from last year’s inaugural Global Directions, which was held in Las Vegas [see DIR 9/28/12]. “We are looking to make a giant leap forward with this year’s event,” said Palmer. “We felt last year was pretty successful, and we definitely learned a lot, but this year we feel we are really offering a world class conference.

“We think we have a strong enough program to attract senior IT executives at end user organizations and business process owners. Primarily we are marketing to end users with the understanding that if they show up, systems integrators and resellers will certainly follow. We are marketing the event throughout the U.S., as well as internationally. We expect a decent turnout from Central and South America, and our team in Europe is looking to bring over some top end users customers—at least a double-digit number. Just because of logistics, we think it may a little tough to attract attendees from Asia-Pac.”

Kodak is also looking for sponsors and exhibitors. It is looking for a total surpassing 20. “Anyone that believes they can make a contribution to the future of intelligent information management is encouraged to exhibit at Global Directions,” said Palmer. “We expect plenty of end users to be on hand looking for those types of partners. We are taking a broad view of this conference as an educational opportunity, and we are looking for a similarly broad representation of exhibitors.

“The bottom line is that I think we are at the beginning of a very exciting period of time that will play out over the next 5, 10, and even 25 years. I sense another revolution in the way we are going to use information. With the presentations and networking at Global Directions, we hope to help attendees bridge the gap between this revolutionary vision and the practical first steps that need to be taken. We are hoping people are able to come away from our event energized and with at least a few things that they can put into action when they get back in the office on Thursday [Sept. 26].”

Plustek Introduces New Departmental Scanner

Today Plustek announced its new SmartOffice PS456U document scanner. It's a color duplex model rated at 80 ppm. Has hard card and longer document capabilities and a 100-page ADF. Software bundle includes ABBYY FineReader for OCR and PDF creation, as well as NewSoft Presto PageManager and BizCard and some other Plustek stuff for Asian OCR as well as one touch "button" scanning. There is also some solid image processing, including auto-thresholding and multi-image output. All this comes at a list price of $849.

It's available from authorized Plustek resellers and Value Added Distributors NewWave Technologies and Ingram Micro.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cool logo for Mobile Capture App

Got to love Scanny,....logo for a mobile capture app that utilizes OCR to transform static text (from like books, for example) into text messages. It does other things too. Runs on iPhones. Free version here.

Has Lexmark Found Formula for Software Success?

Lexmark announced its second quarter 2013 earnings (click on Q2 2013 Earnings) yesterday, with both revenue and income exceeding analyst guidance.This is certainly good news for Lexmark and its shareholders, who saw their stock jump approximately 5% in yesterday's trading. However, the most interesting thing from our perspective was how much credit Perceptive Software is being given for the strong quarter.

Perceptive is a suite of ECM software products that Lexmark began acquiring back in 2010 when it bought Kansas City-based Perceptive Software. At the time, Perceptive was a traditional document imaging/workflow ISV with about $85 million in annual revenue. Since then, Lexmark has rolled up several other ECM-related software companies under the Perceptive umbrella, including advanced document capture specialist Brainware. In Lexmark's latest quarter, Perceptive generated approximately $60 million in revenue, including 34% growth. It also achieved "a modest operating profit for the quarter."

This last point is significant because in previous quarters, while Lexmark had reported some strong growth for Perceptive, it was losing several million dollars per quarter. Here's an explanation of the Perceptive turnaround from Paul Rooke, Chairman and CEO of Lexmark, as quoted from the Seeking Alpha transcript of today's investor call. "We delivered improved Perceptive Software profitability this quarter, up $10 million sequentially and up $4 million year-to-year, driven by two factors. First, we delivered record Perceptive Software revenue, growing more than expected, driven by record licensing revenues as we closed several large enterprise customer licensing deals during the quarter. Second, this increased licensing revenue contributed to a larger gross profit margin increase than expected.

"We also stated last quarter that we were taking additional actions to further reduce Perceptive Software's cost and expense growth to improve profitability without negatively impacting revenue growth.We started to execute that in the second quarter, and we'll begin to see the benefits of these actions starting in the second half. Going forward, we expect to continue driving double-digit software revenue growth and remain committed to delivering a positive software operating margin in 2013."

That's encouraging sign number one for Perceptive.

The second positive sign are synergies that Rooke discussed, which are being developed between Lexmark's Imaging Solutions/hardware business unit and Perceptive. From the Seeking Alpha transcript: "As proof of these synergies, we're beginning to win software solution deals in ISS accounts across a range of industry segments. In fact, over the last two quarters, we've won over 20 new capture, content and process software deals across a range of ISS banking, retail, manufacturing, government and healthcare accounts, and our sales funnel continues to strengthen. We're also beginning to see the reverse happen as well, where ISS is capturing MPS deals in Perceptive Software healthcare accounts."

Basically, this was always the vision - that ISS' large global presence would be able to turn what was essentially a North American SMB-focused ISV like Perceptive, which strengths in a few vertical markets, into a worldwide, cross-industry ECM power. What's neat is that if the Perceptive success continues, the Lexmark blueprint could provide a plan that will be copied (no pub intended) by other printing hardware vendors - all of whom have at least been dipping their toes in the water regarding an increased software focus. If Lexmark can jump all in and succeed (it really has invested a ton of money and resources in Perceptive - and made more of a commitment to software than any of the other hardware vendors), perhaps the other vendors will follow.

What will this mean? It could mean acquisition/buying sprees by hardware print vendors of ECM and capture ISVs. Hyland, DocuWare, Open Text, Kofax? Could they all and more be swept off the table by hungry hardware vendors in the next couple years? If Lexmark's Perceptive plan continues to pay dividends (and admittedly, one quarter does not a successful business make, but Rooke is projecting the success to continue), then why wouldn't the other hardware vendors follow suit?

One more thing, I thought was interested that came out of the Rooke's call with financial analysts. I thought he did a very good job expressing exactly that the big vision is for a combined print/MFP/ECM conglomerate like Lexmark is evolving into. Here's a quote from the Seeking Alpha transcript:

"Lexmark is rapidly moving its value proposition from a provider of only printing solutions, a partial response to the unstructured information challenge that all of our customers' face, to a provider of unstructured information solutions, a more holistic response to this challenge, encompassing: output management, to optimize paper output, a big part of the unstructured information challenge for the time and place it's needed; content management, to make unstructured content, both paper and digital, available at the time and place it's needed; and process management, to automate and integrate those manual, often paper-based disconnected process challenges to improve workflow efficiency."  - I think that makes a lot of sense and does a good job explaining the synergies, from a technology and marketing standpoint, between print and ECM technologies.